Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gingerbread House - Daring Bakers Make a Home

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

There were 2 recipes provided for this challenge - I chose Y's recipe for the gingerbread and used a simple sugar syrup for assembling.

Preparation Time for Y's Recipe: 5-10 minutes to mix the dough, 2 hours to chill, 5 minutes to roll, 10 to cut and 15 minutes to bake. Estimated 4-7 hours from start to finish including chilling.

Equipment Needed:
Stand or handheld electric mixer (not required but it will make mixing the dough a lot easier and faster)
Plastic wrap
Rolling pin
Parchment paper
Baking sheets
Cardboard cake board or sheet of thick cardboard
Foil, if desired
Small saucepan
Small pastry brush (optional)
Piping bag with small round tip, or paper cornets if you're comfortable with them

1. Everything needs to be edible - no glue or inner non-food supports allowed.
2. You must bake the gingerbread yourself, whichever recipe you choose. No graham cracker houses please!
3. You must use some sort of template. If you don't use ours, take a picture or link to what you do use in your final post. It doesn't have to be super technical - Anna didn't even measure hers, she just cut out shapes from parchment and made sure the edges matched up.
4. Your house must be able to stand on its own. If you want to go adding balconies with candy stick buttresses or whatever go right ahead, but the main house itself must be free-standing.

Variations: You are welcome to use either recipe we tested, depending on your taste or what is available where you are.
Obviously, you are also allowed to use any sort of candy or sugar decorations you wish. You can even make your own candy to decorate the house! You may give your house any theme you'd like - you don't have to stick to the traditional Christmas house. We are providing a rough template but feel free to find or make your own (there are a lot of great books out there with tons of fun blueprints and ideas). Some books you may want to check out:
Gingerbread: Things to Make and Bake by Teresa Layman
How to Build a Gingerbread House: A Step-by-Step Guide to Sweet Results by Christina Banner
Gingerbread Houses by Christa Currie
The Gingerbread Architect: Recipes and Blueprints for Twelve Classic American Homes by Susan Matheson and Lauren Chattman
Gingerbread Houses: Baking and Building Memories by Nonnie Cargas

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.
4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar
Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

All text and photographs in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright of © Annarasa 2007 - 2012. All Rights Reserved. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vegetable en Croute

The December 2009 Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

I made one with stir fried button mushrooms, fresh herbs, and a jalapeno jack cheese-cream cheese blend! Here you go.

I found this quite similar to the Savoury Vegetable Puffs that I made last December. A firm favourite with diners in many an Indian cafe, I have also found the latter to be more spicy and will go well with a cup of sweet tea. The Vegetable en Croute on the other hand is defiantly main course and would go well with a green salad or a simple soup like my Watercress & Potato Soup.

Vegetable en Croute: The Recipe

Preparation time: Total prep time incl. cooking for the mushrooms is 50 minutes
Shortcrust pastry : 50 minutes

5.2 oz mascarpone or cream cheese
0.6 cup watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach
17.6 ounces shortcrust pastry
3 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp grated jalapeno jack cheese

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
  2. Cut the pastry in any shape desired, 2 per patty, so you can wrap the vegetable and sauce in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the mushrooms in the middle. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the watercress mixture onto it. Sprinkle half the hard cheese. Place the second piece of cut pastry on top - press and seal. Trim off any excess as you need to. Using a fork, prick the pastry all over to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. Serve with a fresh green salad. I made 2 individual sized patties.
Shortcrust Pastry
Making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! Just make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry. Watch this video to check the correct consistency of the dough Making shortcrust pastry

3.2 cups of plain all purpose flour
7 ounce cold butter
pinch of salt


  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.
  2. Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.
  3. For best results make sure the butter is very cold.
All text and photographs in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright of © Annarasa 2007 - 2012. All Rights Reserved. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cannoli for Thanksgiving!!

The Daring Bakers November Challenge was Cannoli. my nearest connection to to Cannoli has been the crazy and ever popular TV show: Everybody Loves Raymond!! Who can for get the episodes when his mother 'pops in' with fresh home made cannoli for her darling boy next door :)

A.W.E.D. Malaysia - The Roundup

The roundup for A.W.E.D Malaysia is here!! Both sweet and savoury contributions have come in. I would like to thanks everyone who participated and contributed to this event. Do stop by at each of these entries to get the full flavour of Malaysian cooking :)

First, from Priya @ Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes comes Vegan Cucur Kodok or the very delicious Malaysian Banana Fritters to the uninitiated!!

Next comes Curry Puff from Usha Nandini @ Usha Nandini's Recipes. Usha Nandini notes that the Curry puff is a cousin of samosa from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. It is a "Fill-It-Yourself" snack due to its choices of wide varieties of fillings suitable to your taste.

Jill @ Smart Green Gourmet writes, "Inspired by fellow bloggers Annarasa and D.K., I'm trying out some Malaysian cuisine this week as part of the A.W.E.D. (A World of Epicurian Delights) event hosted by Annarasa. Beautiful, flavorful Malaysia inspires a soup loaded with flu-fighting foods, the perfect quick fix cure for your change-of-seasons cold." The soup in question is the Malaysian-Inspired Sweet and Sour Tofu Soup.

Sudha @ Malaysian Delicacies sends in the very lovely looking Pressed Rice, Vegetable Stew with Groundnut Gravy . Beautiful rice dumplings steamed in banana leaves are served with a thin coconut milk gravy stew, and groundnut sauce!! Mmmm - you don't want to miss out on this one.

Alesia @ Alesia The Home Cook has made one of her favourite desserts for A.W.E.D Malaysia: Sago Gula Melaka. Alesia write that she loves this dessert as it is easy to make and it's not time consuming at all. Further the ingredients can be obtained at almost every Asian stores. This is a wonderful dish as it combines the tasteless yet springy sago with the fragrant coconut milk and the sweet aromatic gula melaka.

Sweatha @ TastyCurryLeaf sends in Gendan Kasturi or Sweet Mung Bean Fritters made Malaysian style!! A very simple recipe with a very satisfying taste.

Swathi @ Zesty South Indian Kitchen sends in the delicious Kuih Dadar or Coconut Pancake! Swathi selected this dish because it resembles a breakfast dish common in her home town Kerala, India. She says this dish is usually popular in malls, food courts, and street vendors in the mornings or night. Needless to say Swathi is a big fan of street food which she quite rightly observes is often tastier that food at restaurants!!

DK @ The Chef In You sends in her contribution with Roti-Canai. A flaky and soft albeit rich bread, this is a delicious recipe that DK explains in no less than 2 variations!!

And finally one from yours truly!! Steamed Malaysian Dumplings to be found @ my blog Annarasa - Essesence of Food. These are a family favourite and a regular at my home. Try them, you will love them.

If your contribution is missing from this roundup, please email me and I will add your entry here pronto.

All text and photographs in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright of © Annarasa 2007 - 2009. All Rights Reserved. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.